Here’s an intriguing character drawn by from Marvelman – sorry, Miracleman – creator Mick Anglo: “Captain Valiant, Ace of the Interplanetary Police Patrol”, published by the London-based Arnold Book Company in the early 1950s.
Space Comics began with Issue 50 in 1953 – a standard ploy of with these faux US comics from British comics publishers of the period. (The industry was awash with bizarre numbering and irregular schedules that cause headaches for researchers, as noted by Andrew Darlington in Mentor Issue 88 (PDF link).
A character like many others of the time conjured up following the success of Dan Dare in Eagle and the rise of SF in the cinema, Captain Vic Valiant clearly owes more to America’s Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers than Frank Hampson’s best-known creation, right down to his uniform and spacecraft, which the editorial pages of Issue 50 proudly announce will soon be on sale across the country. (Mick Anglo is quoted in James Chapman’s British Comics: A Cultural History as recalling Space Comics was designed to lend itself to the “merchandising of gimmicks. So we drew our hero complete with uniform, weapons and accessories to attract the attention of toy makers, and they did. My young son was very proud of his Captain Valiant outfit manufactured by Playtogs.”
Space Comics was initially published monthly before going weekly, certainly by Issue 56. The title was fairly short lived, however, facing competition no doubt from the plethora of space heroes and cowboy comics on the market at the time. It ended with Issue 81, published in 1954. The format of the title changes over time, with shorter strips over its 28-page extent in later issues rather than the initial two, and increased editorial features.
(Other Arnold comics such as Black Magic and Justice Traps the Guilty were usually published monthly, often consisting of 68 squarebound pages rather than 28, like Space Comics).
Dennis Gifford is cited as writer on Space Comics, with art from Mick Anglo, who, after setting up Gower Studios in London’s Gower Street, would go on from this project to create the the Marvelman franchise for Len Miller (it’s surely no coincidence that The Arnold Book Company was headed by Arnold Miller, Len’s son).
A well-sourced Wikipedia entry for Mick notes that as “an old school editorial packager”, Anglo’s studio created “packets” for various publishers, usually comprising the entire content of a publication. Mick Anglo Limited was incorporated on 21st August 1954 for the purpose of artistic and literary creation. Anglo and his staff of British artists, including Don Lawrence (who was given his first break in drawing comics by Anglo), Bob Monkhouse, Denis Gifford, Ron Embleton and George Stokes, had a hand in the creation of many British independent comic books and magazines between 1954 and 1963. “I employed a pretty large staff of freelancers,” Mick recalled in an interview. “Scriptwriters and artists. Most of the artists had just come out of the Forces, and were looking for something to do”.
Space Comics is a fun, innocent title of its time, but of note must be its intent to convince readers it was the organ of the Interplanetary Police Patrol. Online editions of this now public domain title feature editorial presenting announcements from the ISP and some issues include cutaways of ISP equipment, such as a “Subterranian (sic) Cruiser”. You have to wonder if the title was seen by Gerry Anderson and percolated into the Mole’s design for Thunderbirds, a decade later.
• There’s a list of all Arnold Book Company titles here on GCD and a small cover gallery here
With thanks to Jeremy Briggs for extra information
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.
Categories: British Comics